Apple iPad Air 2 Review

Updated October 31, 2014
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Apple iPad Air 2 Review
Bottom Line

Reviewers say that the iPad Air 2  is the best iPad ever, and the best tablet available, bar none. The battery lasts forever, performance is among the best of any tablet, and the huge number of tablet-optimized apps can't be beat.

ProsVast tablet-optimized app selection, Powerful performance, Intuitive interface, Good battery life, Incredibly thin and lightConsLittle user customization

Breaking it down

Performance

Silky smooth and super to look at. Thanks to a powerful A8X processor, the iPad Air 2 promises the fastest performance of any tablet ever, and reviews say that it largely delivers. That's something that serious gamers and others who need that level of performance will notice more than typical users who watch movies, read email, play casual games, and the like. Despite the extra performance boost, battery life is as long as ever, though perhaps a touch less than Apple's 10 hour claim. Some Android tablets now serve up displays that are as eye-popping as Apple's Retina Display, with even higher resolution, but that doesn't make it any less beautiful, and a new anti-reflective screen treatment makes for better viewing outdoors or under bright lights.

Features

Apps, apps and more apps. The killer feature with the Apple iPad Air 2 remains iTunes unmatched library of tablet-optimized apps -- 675,000 designed specifically for the iPad, Apple claims. New this year is Touch ID fingerprint recognition for security and one-touch purchasing, including from third-party merchants whose apps support Apple Pay. The base version iPad Air 2 is Wi-Fi only, but you can opt for a version with LTE connectivity for $130 more. LTE-enabled iPad Air 2s now have a programmable SIM card to allow for switching between carriers if needed. For those immersed in the Apple lifestyle, you can pass calls from your iPhone to your iPad, and sync what your are doing on the iPad with the iPhone and Apple laptops and desktops running OS X Yosemite -- staring work or play on one device and seamlessly picking it up on another. The base version ships with 16 GB of storage. If you need more than that, upgrades to 64 GB (Est. $600) and 128 GB (Est. $700) are available.

Ease of use

Doesn't get better. The powerful internals provide a super-speedy usage experience, even when playing the most demanding 3D gaming apps, while the iOS operating system is slick and simple to use. However, the trade-off for the ease of use is limited customization options, especially when compared to Android tablets. Apple's warranty isn't especially generous, particularly when it comes to telephone support, but the in-store Genius Bars are highly praised. Build quality is near bulletproof, and the gold standard by which other tablets are judged.

Our Sources

1. CNET

Apple iPad Air 2 Review, Scott Stein, Oct. 21, 2014

CNET calls the Apple iPad Air 2 "the gold standard for tablets," en route to giving it an Editors' Choice award. Functionally, there's not a ton of difference between it and last year's version, Scott Stein says. However, there are "a bevy of tweaks" that make it a "nice refinement" of the original Apple iPad Air.

2. PCMag.com

Apple iPad Air 2, Sascha Segan, Oct. 21, 2014

The Apple's iPad Air earns an Editors' Choice award here as well. Sascha Segan says the aesthetics are impressive, and the performance is fast. The review also notes that the array of available apps is unsurpassed.

3. TheVerge.com

iPad Air 2 Review, Nilay Patel, Oct. 21, 2014

TheVerge.com gives the Apple iPad Air 2 a score of 9.3 out of 10, matching that of the original iPad Air. In calling the Air 2 the best iPad -- and the best tablet -- ever made, Nilay Patel adds "its incredible hardware and enormous ecosystem of apps offer a commanding advantage over the competition."

4. Laptop Magazine

Apple iPad Air 2 Review, Mark Spoonauer, Oct. 29, 2014

The iPad Air 2 earns top honors once again, scoring an Editors' Choice award. "The iPad Air 2 is the tablet perfected," Mark Spoonauer says. Elsewhere, Laptop Magazine names it the best tablet overall.

5. Computer Shopper

Apple iPad Air 2 Review and Ratings, John Burek, Nov. 5, 2014

John Burek names the Apple iPad Air 2 an Editors' Choice. In calling it the " Best Tablet You Can Buy," he adds that, while the upgrades aren't quite enough to justify upgrading from the last generation Air, "it'll feel like a tablet from another planet if you're still using an original iPad or iPad 2, or an early Android."

6. Anandtech.com

The Apple iPad Air 2 Review, Joshua Ho, Nov. 7, 2014

Technology site Anandtech.com doesn't give out awards or ratings, but its in-depth analysis is a must for those who are technically obsessed. It's clear that reviewer Joshua Ho is impressed with the Apple iPad Air 2, and he adds that pending the release of the Google Nexus 9, the Air 2 is likely to be one of the only 2014 tablets worth buying.

7. HotHardware.com

Apple iPad Air 2 Review: Should You Upgrade?, Paul Lilly, Nov. 3, 2014

HotHardware.com gives out plenty of awards, but few Editors' Choice selections and the Apple iPad Air 2 wins one of those. Paul Lilly concedes that there might be better tablet options for some, but that doesn't change his conclusion that the Air 2 is "one of the best tablets on the market."

8. ConsumerReports.org

Apple iPad Air 2 (Wi-Fi, 64 GB), Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated

ConsumerReports.org includes the Apple iPad Air 2 among the many tablets big and small that it tests and rates. Discussion is less detailed than at many other review sites, but more than we've seen here in the past. Scores are assigned, tablets are ranked against those of similar size, and recommendations are made.

9. BestBuy.com

Apple - iPad Air 2 Wi-Fi 64GB - Silver, Contributors to BestBuy.com, As of November 2014

BestBuy.com has a nice selection of reviews for the Apple iPad Air in its various memory capacities, but the 64 GB draws the most feedback. More than 1,250 owners rate the tablet 4.8 stars, with 98 percent saying that they would recommend it to a friend. Other versions draw fewer -- though still considerable -- reviews with near identical satisfaction.